Le Mans: the Iron Dames
Who are the "Iron Dames" that are getting ready for the hardest race on the planet and why they're not here to make up the numbers.
The iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans, the third "motorsport crown" race, is about to start in about 3 hours time. Tension is building, as we get ready for the most exciting marathon of the year.
The Kessel all-female racing line up has just completed the morning warm-up in P50, which was enough for 8th in the GTE-AM class.
The #83 crew will take the start of the hardest endurance race on the planet from the 60th grid slot, with the experienced Rahel Frey behind the wheel of the strikingly beautiful Ferrari 488GTE.
Who are these "Iron Dames"? Let's get to know a bit better the three drivers that will try to make their way up the field and that have all the potential for a top 5 in the incredibly close Gte-Am class, so far lead by the Dempsey-Proton Porsches.
Rahel Frey, 33, Switzerland.
Motorsport enthusiasts will certainly be familiar with this name: Rahel Frey is one of the most respected names in European GT racing and the only driver of the team to have already raced in Le Mans.
Curiously, she took part in the 2010 edition, in another all-female (and all-Swiss) squad, partnering Cyndie Allemann and Natacha Gachnang. They were forced to retire with engine troubles early in the race.
After an international single-seater background (Formula Renault, International Formula Masters and German Formula 3), Rahel famously raced in DTM in 2011 and 2012.
She's an AUDI factory driver, with extensive experience of GT and endurance racing (GT1 World Championship, ADAC GT Masters, ELMS, Audi LMS Cup) and coaching. She will tackle another famous 24 hours race later this month: the 24H of Nurburgring.
"We had a fabulous journey so far with amazing people surrounding and supporting us."
Michelle Gatting, 25, Denmark.
A big name in international karting, Gatting made her auto racing debut in 2011 in Formula Ford, before switching to GT and tourism cars.
She entered the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, International GT Open and the Danish-based Thundersport Championship, where she became the first woman to win a race.
This race means so much to her, that the day before leaving for the biggest race of her career she had the Le Mans 24 logo tattooed on her forearm.
"In a little while, we'll have to experience the biggest thing we've ever experienced in our career. It will be big, touching, and a moment that we will remember for life."
Manuela Gostner, 35, Italy.
Gostner might be the less experienced driver of the trio, but she's certainly not the least determined.
Her love for motorsport started in 2014, when she attended the Ferrari world final in Mugello. Her brother David was racing there, and she thought that she could have had a go as well.
Few years later, after the coaching of experienced driver Giorgio Sernagiotto, she finds herself in the field of one of the biggest races in the world.
Former volleyball player, mother of two, she said she cried out of joy when they knew they had been admitted on the Le Mans grid.
"If I had to choose a team for the most important race in the world...it would have been with these 3 women."
"Iron Dames" is a unique and special project, conceived and supported by Deborah Mayer, French passionate driver, with the aim of promoting women's motoring.
The project is officially supported by the FIA through the "FIA Women in Motorsport" program.
Race will start at 3pm local time; stay tuned for in-race reports.
Ph credits: www.irondames.racing / Kessel Racing